Part 4: Acid vs. Alkaline Foods & The Vital Role of Enzymes

We have always heard the “eat more fruits and vegetables” rule, from our parents, our grandparents, and school teachers alike.  We know that we should eat more fruit and vegetables – admittedly, we are probably all lacking a bit in that respect.    We also all know that most of our vitamin and mineral intake is achieved through eating fruits and vegetables; most people will probably agree that they focus on their fruit and vegetable intake more so when g on a diet than at any other time in their lives.

There is, however, so much more to know about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.  Unless one learns through a nutritional course, one might never know just how important fruits and vegetables are for the human body, and why.

Probably one of the most overlooked facts about the foods we eat is whether they become acid or alkaline in the body.  Whenever food is digested, it leaves behind an ash which is acidic, alkaline, or neutral.  The balance can be measured using the pH scale, which defines neutrality as 7.   The ideal pH condition for blood is 7.4, and if too acidic, acidic components are deposited into other parts of the body so that the blood can maintain its alkalinity

If too many acid-forming foods are eaten too often, it causes the body to retain water, resulting in weight-gain.  Ever wondered why you suddenly lose a lot of water weight when beginning a healthy diet of mostly alkaline-forming foods?  Well, this is one of the reasons.

I have helped a lot of people who are baffled as to why they always retain water and feel bloated.  When discussing their typical daily intake, there is always a common theme:  Virtually every one of them had a diet predominant in acid-forming foods!  This is no coincidence.  The body has its own buffers in place to maintain alkalinity.  But even the body has its limits.  Ff acid-forming foods are eaten too frequently, alkaline reserves become depleted.  When under duress, it will attempt to neutralize acid in two ways:

  1. Retain water
  2. Extract calcium from the bones.  Calcium has a neutralizing effect on the acid in the body.  Over time the calcium levels diminish, leading to weakened teeth and bones

Osteoporosis is on the increase in countries like the United States, where dairy is eaten in immense quantities.  Yet people continue to consume vast amounts of pasteurized dairy products as their source of calcium.  It’s time to change this!  There are plenty of alternative options.

Instead of dairy, focus on broccoli, salmon, sesame seeds, raw almonds, or fresh orange juice for your calcium intake. All except the salmon are alkaline in the body!

Ideally, we should base our daily acid/alkaline intake on a 60/40% ratio.  If recovering from an illness, the ratio should be 80/20%.   In Western countries where people consume vast quantities of animal proteins, refined sugars, flour, diet sodas, coffee, tea, and pharmaceutical drugs (all acid-forming), cancer and obesity rates are the highest.   This is no coincidence.

A mostly alkaline diet will speed up the metabolism and help the body to fight disease.  While it may not cure cancer, it will most certainly work as a preemptive measure in the fight against it.    And if there is anyone out there who changes to a mostly alkaline diet and does not lose weight, I will eat my hat!    In addition, alkaline foods are mostly water-based, just like our bodies.  For an organism that is 70% water, we should ideally be eating a 70% water-based diet.

Acid-forming foods are also “concentrated” foods, meaning they are devoid of water – also known as “dead” foods.  They require an enormous amount of energy to be digested and assimilated by the body.   A hamburger, for instance, can take up to 30 hours to pass through the body once eaten.  Imagine what this does to your energy levels!  When you eat alkaline-forming foods like fruit, it passes straight through into the intestines and out of the body within an hour, requiring almost no energy for digestion and assimilation.  This in turn leaves you with a lot more energy, an efficient immune system, and a healthier, slimmer body.  So what are you waiting for?  Nature has provided us these foods in abundance, so forget the processed, packaged foods, and get down to your local farmer’s market!

To illustrate the best foods to eat, I have drawn up a table showing examples of foods that are alkaline-forming (60-80% of your diet), and foods that are acid-forming (20 – 40% of your diet).

Alkaline (60% – 80% of diet) Acid (20% – 40% of diet)
Cucumber, Alfalfa, Spinach, Asparagus, Lettuce, Chives, Garlic, Zucchini, Green Beans, Fresh Peas, Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Avocado, Lime, Lemon, Almonds, Lentils, Tofu, Apple Cider Vinegar, Broccoli, Mushrooms, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Radishes, Grapes, Bananas, Melon, Coconut, Stevia, Watermelon, Oranges, Kale, Cold-pressed olive oil Meat, Chicken, Fish, Bread, Cereal, Cheese, Milk, Tobacco, Alcohol, Tea, Coffee, Eggs, Dairy products, Peanuts, Butter, Chocolate, Sugar, Ketchup, Salt, White Wine Vinegar, all processed/canned foods, pharmaceuticals, Peanut Butter, Soy Milk, Oils, Pasta, Aspartame, and all artificial sweeteners, Cashews,

Although scientists do argue the link between diet and blood PH levels,

Self-Experiment
Do a little experiment yourself.  For lunch one day, eat a large green salad with cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, onion, tomato, avocado, and some sprinkled nuts and seeds.   Enjoy the salad and take careful note how you feel afterwards.  Energetic?  Check!  Satisfied without feeling full and bloated?  Check!  No need for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up?  Check!  That’s what happens when you eat water-based, alkaline foods.  They are easily digested and assimilated, the nutrients efficiently used by the body without a demanding a huge amount of your energy.   Eating a steak sandwich or baked potato with cheese, demands a lot of energy for digestion and assimilation, undoubtedly causing mid-afternoon fatigue and a need for the 4pm “caffeine fix”.
This may sound harmless enough, but think about it:  Your body is constantly rebuilding and renewing cells.  If you are eating dead, clogging foods, what kind of cells do you think your body will build?  Now imagine the difference in new cells if the body was fed mostly water-based, nutritious, alkalizing foods which are easily absorbed, requiring little or no energy for absorption.  You can see where I am going with this!

Tip:  Eating “dead” foods ages the body more rapidly

You Are What You Eat
Do you know someone who eats mostly raw fruit and vegetables?  If so, you can probably agree that they are energetic, lively, happy, bright-eyed and probably quite youthful.  This is a direct result of their diet.  Conversely, if you know someone who eats mostly fried, processed, or fast foods, they are most likely pale, fatigued, moody, and prone to colds and flu; have bad skin, and may even look older than their age.   This is purely down to cell renewal and rejuvenation.  Your body cannot replace cells perfectly if it isn’t getting perfect fuel.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?   Yet so many people in the 21st century have bad eating habits, resorting to plastic surgery to look younger.  It simply doesn’t work that way.  A flawless complexion cannot be achieved by plastic surgery.  It can only be achieved by eating good, healthy foods that nourish the body on the inside.   The most nourishing foods are filled with enzymes – nature’s life-force.

Enzymes And Their Vital Role
Enzymes are a protein molecule found in foods, also known as the spark – or fuel – that ignites life. Although there are thousands of enzyme molecules which play different roles, I will focus on food enzymes for the sake of this article.  There is no perfect explanation for exactly what an enzyme is, but I can promise you that they are probably the most important component in your food, for reasons which I will explain.

According to Dr. Edward Howell, the physician and researcher who is a noted expert on the world of enzymes, food enzymes are vital to digestion – and are quite literally, the spark of life.  Found in raw foods, they ignite the digestive process in the mouth and the stomach.   There are three food enzymes, namely proteases for digesting protein, lipases for digesting fats and amylases for digesting carbohydrates.   The best sources of enzymes are raw fruits and vegetables, raw fish, raw honey, cold-pressed olive oil, raw milk; also cultured foods such as live bacterial yogurt.   Foods such as bean curd (tofu), papaya, pineapples, and unrefined oils are particularly high in enzymes.

Enzymes are destroyed in the cooking process, leaving the pancreas to the task of producing enzymes to digest cooked food.  There is a limit on the amount of enzymes the body can produce, and an over-taxed pancreas causes premature aging, disease, and possible early death.    The immense strain put on the digestive system when cooked foods are eaten is greatly reduced if enough raw foods are eaten with the cooked food.

Let’s look at meat for example.  We’ve all heard how bad meat is for the body, and you’ve probably heard the reports about how much undigested meat is in the average American male’s colon – 5 pounds, apparently.  If we look at how people eat meat, we will have a clearer understanding as to why this happens.  All across the world, meat is typically eaten alongside a carbohydrate.  In fact it is ingrained in our psyche – eat meat, must have a carbohydrate for “balance”.  Hamburger; steak and baked potato; kebab; lasagna; tuna sandwich; egg and toast; roast meat with roast potatoes – the list is literally endless.   For hundreds of years we have eaten this way – most people cannot imagine eating any other way.

But the reality of what our bodies need is vastly different to what we think it needs in this instance.

Our digestive systems are not designed to combine proteins and carbohydrates in the same meal.   Firstly, proteins and carbohydrates require different digestive enzymes to be broken down.  Proteins require an acid, while carbohydrates require an alkaline digestive enzyme.
If for instance, a steak sandwich is eaten, the acid and the alkaline digestive juices neutralize each other in the stomach, hampering digestion.  The body, recognizing the difficulty in digesting this combination, secretes more digestive juices, causing an “acid stomach”, bloating, and heartburn.  The process of digestion of this food combination can take many hours, so if we then eat another protein/carbohydrate meal combo before the first one is fully digested, the body cannot deal with it all and the undigested food begins to ferment in the body.   Over time this “rotten” food is considered toxic and unusable by the body.

These toxins then enter the bloodstream, causing toxemia, or crystallize in the joints (arthritis), clog the colon, slow metabolism, disrupt the body’s mechanisms, cause obesity, and leave the unfortunate person feeling fatigued, moody, and generally “run-down”.

The best way to eat meat
When steak is eaten with vegetable salads, the outcome is very different.  Enzymes in the raw vegetables get to work immediately, facilitating digestion of the steak, thus saving the body an enormous amount of energy.    A steak is one of the most difficult foods for human body to digest, so why clog up the process with gooey carbohydrates that just hinder the process, when eating a raw salad with the steak is not only more delicious, but it aids  the digestions process!

Faster digestion means the body uses less energy, so nutrients are utilized more quickly and effectively, aiding the metabolic process.   This is not rocket science.  Start focusing on what you are eating together.   I challenge you to put this to the test.  Try out both a steak and baked potato, and a steak and salad in two separate meals.    After you have finished both meals, take careful note of exactly how you feel, how your body reacts.

It is important to note that an exclusive raw food diet isn’t right for everyone.  Some people may find that they prefer to have a balance of raw and cooked foods.  There is nothing wrong with this – there are still ways to cook foods that ensure the enzymes are kept intact.  Steaming softens the vegetables on the outside, keeping the insides crunchy.  Baking, boiling, grilling, sautéing – these methods destroy the fragile enzymes that disappear after temperatures of about 115F.

When it comes to keeping raw/cooked foods in balance, it is important not to make too drastic a change, too quickly.  I have found a balance of 70% raw, 30% cooked food in my diet to be conducive to my lifestyle, although others may find a 60%/40% ratio is more feasible – at least in the beginning.   I try to have two meals a day eaten raw, and one cooked.  This keeps things interesting and offers more variety.

My personal eating plan – for optimum health and maintaining weight
Breakfast is usually a papaya smoothie, lunch is usually a salad with fish, and dinner something cooked – curry, or soup of some kind.   I snack on raw almonds during the day, and may have a green juice as well, depending on how I feel.  I find this ratio of raw to cooked foods ideal for me, my lifestyle, and my wellbeing, but everyone is different.  It is important to find what works for you.

Integrating healthier eating habits into one’s daily life should happen slowly.   Turning into a raw foodist overnight and banishing all your favorite foods from your house is counterproductive and pointless.  Taking a few positive steps forward one at a time towards better eating habits are far more beneficial than changing everything at once.

It’s also good to treat yourself – I am firm believer in this.  If, one day a week, you want to eat a pizza, chocolate, or your favorite ice-cream, then do it.  If you have a large roast dinner planned with friends, don’t think that you have to deprive yourself….enjoy it.   You just have to be aware about what you eat before and after your roast dinner.  A fresh fruit breakfast and a raw salad dinner are the perfect meals to assist your body in digesting the roast dinner.  Remember…it’s all about balance!

Thanks for reading and best of health to you…

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About fithealthyfab

Yoga, Home Detox programs, nutritional advice
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